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09 February 2016
'Soft opt-out' organ donation register to be put to consultation

'Soft opt-out' organ donation register to be put to consultation

Ministers have vowed to take forward a consultation on further methods to increase organ donation and transplantation - including developing a workable soft opt-out system - with a view to considering legislation.

The moves comes after ministers had previously rejected Labour MSP Anne McTaggart’s plans to introduce a “soft opt-out” system for organ donation, which will be voted on later today by MSPs following a Stage 1 debate. Public Health Minister Maureen Watt claimed the member’s bill is “seriously flawed and could actually harm organ donation”.

The system would see people actively opt out of the NHS Organ Donation Register if they did not want their organs removed after death.


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The Transplantation Bill also failed to get backing from the majority of the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee last month. 

The Government has submitted an amendment to the bill calling on ministers to “commence work in preparation for a detailed consultation on further methods to increase organ donations and transplants in Scotland, including soft opt-out, as an early priority in the next parliamentary session”.

The amendment also commits government to “consider bringing forward legislation” based on learning from Wales, which is currently implementing its own opt-out legislation.

“While we’re very supportive of measures to increase organ availability, in our view the Member’s Bill before the Scottish Parliament is seriously flawed and could actually harm organ donation,” said Watt.

“Many of the measures set out in the Bill could make things worse due to legal ambiguities and delays in decision-making processes.

“We have concerns that the proposals around authorised investigating persons (AIPs) and proxies will add significant complexity into the donation pathway, and may lead to potential donors being lost.

“We also have concerns that provisions in relation to adults with incapacity may make it difficult for such adults, or their relatives, to opt-out, leaving them ‘locked in’ to donation.”

However, Watt said the proposed legislation has “helped to raise the profile of the debate” around how to increase the number of organ donors as she vowed to start work immediately on a detailed consultation.

“The consultation will be an opportunity to seek the views of the public on a range of issues, including soft opt-out, and determine what action the Scottish Government should take next to increase the availability of organs,” she added.

Giving evidence before the Health and Sport Committee on December, McTaggart said she was “saddened and disgusted” at “mistruths peddled” by government in response to her bill.

Ahead of today’s Stage 1 debate, the Labour MSP said: “If MSP’s vote against the bill, they will be condemning people to wait even longer for a solution to the shortage of available organs for transplant. For many, that wait will be too long.”

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